The main reason dogs have such problems with dental health is
they don’t have opposable thumbs and have trouble holding a
tooth brush. It’s no wonder they have potty breath! There are
many products available for helping to keep your dog’s smile
bright, from dental treats to chew toys. Dingo Ringo, for
instance, is a special treat for dogs that massages the gum and
removes tartar. But the best way to stay ahead of canine tooth
problems is to brush your dog’s teeth.
Dogs probably won’t open wide for you without some training.
Ideally you should brush your dog’s teeth after every meal,
just as you do your own. But any amount of brushing you can
manage will reduce dental problems and save you the cost of
How to Brush Your Dog's Teeth
- Start training from the time you bring your
puppy home. Handle their muzzles, open their mouths and gently
feel the teeth to get pups used to having something
manipulating their mouths. Just lift the dog’s lips without
trying to force the mouth open, and offer a dental treat when
they allow this.
- You can use a soft human baby-size toothbrush, a
dog tooth brush,
or a “finger”
brush for dogs. Some dogs hate having something stuck into
their mouth but will accept a beloved owner’s fingers, so the
finger brush that slips over your index finger may work best.
You can also wrap your finger with a wash cloth or piece of
- Only use dog-approved tooth paste. Human toothpaste
contains fluoride and since dogs won’t spit, the swallowed
paste can be bad for them. Pet tooth pastes come in chicken,
malt, beef and other flavors. Let your dog sniff and taste a
sample of the paste before you begin.
- Once they taste (and like!) the paste, put a bit
on your bare finger and slip it inside your dog’s mouth to rub
against the outside of the teeth. You don’t have to worry about
the inside of the teeth because the dog’s tongue keeps that
surface pretty clean.
- After the dog accepts your flavored finger, you
can put some of the toothpaste on the finger or dog tooth
brush. Hold your dog’s mouth closed with one hand while you
slip the brush under the lips and brush the outside of the
teeth. Pay particular attention to the molars in the cheek
region. Remember to always praise dogs when they accept the
brushing. Aim for brushing a couple times a week.
How to Brush a Dog’s Teeth
Brushing your dog’s teeth at least twice a week is vital to
your pet’s oral health. Like humans, dogs can get cavities,
plaque buildup, and gum disease. But unlike humans, dogs cannot
use the typical toothpastes found at grocery and drug stores
for their dental care.
Why Can't Dogs Use Human Toothpaste?
Human toothpaste is not edible, which is why we spit it out
when we are through brushing our teeth. Since dogs cannot rinse
and spit out toothpaste, they will swallow it. Ingredients in
human toothpaste, like fluoride, can be toxic to dogs in large
doses, so it is unsafe for them to ingest it.
What Kind of Toothpaste Is Safe for Dogs?
Specially formulated edible toothpaste for dogs is readily
available through various pet care brands. This toothpaste does
not foam like human toothpaste, but it has all the right
ingredients to help fight tartar buildup and gum disease, which
will in turn reduce bad breath.
Dog Toothpaste Flavors
To make tooth brushing a more pleasant experience, try to find
toothpaste that your dog enjoys. Dog toothpaste can be found in
a variety of flavors that appeal to canines, like beef,
poultry, peanut, vanilla, mint, and seafood. If they are
available, buy sample sizes of different flavors to test which
one your dog prefers most.
Finding the Right Dog Toothpaste
You may not find the right dog toothpaste on your first try.
Experiment with different brands, flavors, and types of
toothpaste. When testing out types of toothpaste, you want to
find a balance between what is pleasant for your dog, most
effective in cleaning, and easy to use. Dog toothpaste comes in
forms other than regular paste, such as liquid rinses, gels,
and sprays to name a few. Some varieties of dog toothpaste
contain grain alcohol to clean teeth, while others are
enzymatic. Take a look at the ingredients list before
purchasing if your dog has certain sensitivities, or if there
are ingredients you wish to avoid.
This information is for informational purposes only and is not
meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or
diagnosis or treatment by,your veterinarian. Always seek the
advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional
with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to
what you may have read on our website.
Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant,
consultant to the pet care industry and the award winning
author of 23 pet care books.